Maker Faire for Music

Massive musical makers meet-up! Clockwise from top left: the all-in-one sound suitcase AudioPint, ultrasonic Thereping instruments, Steve Cooley links sound and 3D image, and one-upping Nike with a sensor-driven performance shoe.

Next week, all week I’ll be in the Bay Area, California for Maker Faire, the Burning Man meets Science Fair meets World Expo meets Happening event hosted by our friends at Make Magazine. With so much going on, here’s a look at some of the digital music-specific events and workbenches featured this year (as I did last year). And yes, I’ll be on-hand personally showing alternative instruments, performing, and co-hosting/playing two parties (stay tuned here for the latest):

Performances: The Crank Ensemble will perform on crank-operated DIY musical instruments. Vocal virtuoso Kid Beyond will be looping away with Ableton. Loop.pooL will be doing … well, looping of some kind, I gather. Even the knitting circle will have a DJ.

The highlight for me, though, is Mark G, who as reported previously will infringe upon copyrights using sewing thimbles and host a battle of cassette jockeys.

Workbenches: For lovers of creating your own music technology, the real action will be at the workbenches, six-foot tables where we’ll have projects of various types and get to chat with visitors. There’s brilliant stuff of all kinds, but specific to music DIYers:

  1. Monome: First shown off at last year’s Maker Faire, our Monome friends are back to demonstrate the much larger 100h, the sequel to last year’s hit open source hardware pad controller for music and multimedia. Workbench link; Monome on CDM.
  2. Thereping: Using the Parallax ultrasonic PING sensor (which happens to be one of my favorite sensor inputs), the Thereping is a self-contained, largely touch-free instrument played by waving your hand. You can find source code and other goodies at the project website, or check out the workbench page.
  3. OpenSoundControl-a-palooza: OpenSoundControl (OSC) is the net-savvy, modern protocol for connecting music and multimedia devices, as used by the Lemur, Make Controller Kit, and software like Max/MSP and Processing. Key OSC leader Adrian Freed will be on-hand to show off devices using the technology.
  4. New Music Research: Stanford’s CCRMA will show “new sonic interactions” built in low-cost and open-source tools.
  5. Studio in a Briefcase: MIT Media Lab researcher David Merrill has built a self-contained, Ubuntu and Pure data-powered PC-in-a-case called the AudioPint. Sound toys, joystick input, and audio I/O are all wrapped into a single, open-platform audio unit.
  6. Combining DIY Music Software for Sound + Visuals: It’s Quartz Composer plus Processing plus Pd plus OSC, oh my! Our friend Steve Cooley is teaming up with Derek Scott to bridge the divide between different applications and different media, combining music and visuals interactively. See the workbench page for more.
  7. VJ Kung Fu: Surya from VJKUNGFU.TV will have a single focal point for visualists with something called the Retinal Rumble.

Plus a how-to bench for using alternative inputs: If you stop by my own workbench, I’ll be demonstrating how to use alternative inputs (sensors-to-MIDI, Wii controllers, and a barcode scanner) for music. I decided that, with so many nifty tech projects happening, I’d keep it simple and focus on projects you can build yourself. I’m also putting together an interactive workshop on this stuff for CDM that should grow over time, so whether you’re at Maker Faire or not, you’ll definitely be able to see what I’m working on. See my (bare-bones, at the moment) project page.

And there’s more …

Resources for DIY music: The Create USB sensor-to-USB board and Make Controller Kit (of course) will both have their own workbenches; we’ve featured these previously as ways of interfacing with sensors. (I’ll focus on the MIDIsense and Arduino.) Applicable to music, as well, are a DIY Wii-style game controller and open-source USB hardware maker portal. For wireless lovers, there’s Tom Igoe with his XBee hardware.

And more musical instruments: Self-playing MIDI band (with drum kit, no less), multitouch music devices, motorcycle musical instruments, helmets with cameras and musical sensor-driven shoes, and a “space age” MIDI guitar-ish controller.

This means you: If any of the projects I’ve just described are your projects, do get in touch. And since we’ll be tied up at our respective workbenches, hopefully we’ll run into each other at the Maker Day festivities Thursday hosted by Make, at setup on Friday, or at the parties I’m participating in / co-hosting Friday and Saturday night (more on that soon). Or just introduce yourself in comments here.

I need help! If you’re planning on attending, I desperately need folks to take photos, videos, and write up notes of everything music= and motion-related, since I’ll be at my bench. Do get in touch, and of course we’ll have some Flickr and video groups up and running, as well.

  • anon

    Some cool stuff to be sure, I'll be looking forward to your posts Peter πŸ™‚

    That AudioPint really grabbed my attention, so I followed the link, and then promptly closed the page when I read: "VIA motherboards". Someone's been spending too much time at uni and not making music… (In case anyone else missed it, VIA mobos are famous for screwing up with pro audio gear) I really worry that sometimes us geeks are over intellectualising this stuff and missing the point πŸ™ Hopefully the maker faire won't get caught up with cool toys and flashing lights and pricey yet hypnotic multitouch devices and will focus on the practical stuff so we can all make some good tunes as a result of all these musical instrument inventions.

    The MIDIbox community is notably absent again, what's up with that? Especially as you (Peter) are covering use of alternative input devices, the ACSensorizer project could be of interest. Anyway good luck getting that monkey off your back πŸ˜‰

  • Ha!

    As for who's missing, well, it's not a curated event; I think it's whoever shows up. I actually need to spend more time with MIDIbox myself, though.

    I'm fairly certain the Maker Faire will be anything but practical. It's a wild circus, it seems! But there are ways of filtering that knowledge and experimentation back to practical things; that's an ongoing process.

    On the VIA mobo — are these hardware-specific things? Are they maybe running better under Ubuntu?

  • anon

    Ahh that explains it… That's cool, I like the open invite! Maybe we can get the midibox crew involved next year… If nothing else, it's a good excuse for me to get on an aircraft and head stateside πŸ™‚ By that time, version 2 of the MBSID (The most powerful non-modular analog synth ever, see matrix's post for a pre-release monster) will be done, as well as the myriad of user projects that are on the go. Hope to see you on the forum when you get a chance to play midiboxer. I'm sure you'll get ample assistance.

    "there are ways of filtering that knowledge and experimentation back to practical things; that’s an ongoing process."

    Very true πŸ™‚ *cutoff = 2*

    The VIA chipsets have caused so many random problems over the years that it's crazy. Most if not all of which have been problems with their PCI buss or memory, so, hardware… To be honest, I never got too far into it, I just got tired of providing tech support to people who's soundcards didn't work and after ages of troubleshooting, pinning it down to those chipsets. It just became a case of:

    "My soundcard does *weird thing*"

    "Is it a VIA chipset?"


    "Get a new mobo and come back"

    *never hear from them again*

    Echo, RME, Aardvark, M-Audio and cakewalk DAW labs have all advised against a VIA mobo at some point in time. A couple of links to give a hint:

    Echo soundcard + VIA Chipset – Impossible combination? – Topic …

    Notes on the selection of Athlon-based

    I deliberately grabbed really old examples so you can see that this has been going on for years… Here's a <a>current one from Echo.

    The VIA chipsets are usually to blame for the historic problems with AMD CPU's in DAWs too.

    You get the idea… I just don't bother considering them any more….

  • I'll be hanging out, representing Cycling '74 on Saturday with the MakingThings guys. Be sure to stop by and say hi.